Dangerous Tropical Storm Irene headed for the Dominican Republic

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:38 PM GMT on August 21, 2011

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Tropical Storm Irene roared into life last night, transitioning from a tropical wave to a 50 mph tropical storm in just a few short hours. Irene is getting organized quickly, and has the potential to become a hurricane by Monday morning. All interests in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Florida should prepare for the arrival of this dangerous storm. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm found the strongest winds near 18°N latitude to the north of Irene's center at 8am this morning. After passing through the center, the plane returned to the area of strongest winds two hours later, and found that flight level winds at 5,000 feet had increased by about 5 - 8 mph. However, the pressure in the latest center fix taken at 10am EDT remained the same as two hours previously, 1007 mb, and the plane noted that Irene's center was not circular, signs that the storm still has some work to do before serious intensification can begin. Visible satellite loops and radar out of Martinique show the storm has rapidly organized this morning, with well-developed spiral bands forming and a large area of intense thunderstorms to the north of the center. Irene has shrugged off the dry air that was bothering it yesterday, and wind shear has fallen to the low range, 5 - 10 knots, as analyzed by the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. Torrential rains and strong gusty winds are affecting the northern Lesser Antilles this morning. A wind gust of 41 mph was recorded at St. Eustatius at 8am local time.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Irene.

Track forecast for Irene
The computer models are in agreement that Irene will pass just south of Puerto Rico tonight, then hit the south coast of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic or Haiti on Monday afternoon. Irene should then emerge into the channel between Haiti and Cuba on Tuesday afternoon, when the storm will have 12 or so hours over water before having to contend with Cuba. A trough of low pressure is expected to move across the Eastern U.S. on Wednesday and Thursday, turning Irene to the northwest and north by Thursday. The timing and strength of this trough varies considerably from model to model, and will be critical in determining where and when Irene will turn to the north. Irene's strength will also matter--a stronger Irene is more likely to turn northward earlier. The most likely path for Irene is a track just east of the Florida Peninsula and into Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina by next weekend, but a landfall near Miami then directly up the Florida Peninsula is also a reasonable solution--like Tropical Storm Fay of 2008 did. Fay formed just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and was never quite able to get organized enough to become a hurricane, due to passage over Hispaniola and Cuba. Fay topped out as a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and did over $500 million in damage in the U.S., mostly due to flooding rains in Florida that accumulated to over 25 inches in a few areas. Fay also dumped heavy rains on Hispaniola, triggering flooding that claimed eight lives.


Figure 2. Track of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008.

Intensity forecast for Irene
Irene is embedded in a large envelope of moisture now, and wind shear will remain low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. With water temperatures very warm, 28 - 30°C, these conditions should allow for intensification except when land is interfering. Irene's current appearance on satellite loops gives me the impression of a storm that is not fooling around, and I expect Irene will be a hurricane before hitting Hispaniola on Monday. Passage over Hispaniola will not destroy Irene, since it is a fairly large storm. Once the storm finishes with Hispaniola, it will have to deal with Cuba, which will keep Irene from intensifying significantly. Once Irene pops off the coast of Cuba Wednesday or Thursday into the Florida Straits, Irene will likely be a tropical storm. If the storm then has at least a day over water before hitting land, it will likely become a hurricane again, and could become a major hurricane if it ends up missing South Florida and moving over the warm waters on either side of the Florida Peninsula.

Harvey hits Belize
Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall at 2pm EDT on Saturday near Dangriga Town, Belize, as a tropical storm with 60 mph winds. Harvey continues to dump very heavy rains on southern Mexico, but dissipation is expected tonight as the storm pushes inland. Harvey was a small storm, and the strongest winds were confined to a short stretch of coast near where the center came ashore. Winds at Belize City, Belize on Saturday topped out at 15 mph.


Figure 3. Radar image of Harvey taken at 11:30am EDT on Saturday, August 20, 2011, a few hours before landfall in Belize. A small closed eye is visible just south of the offshore islands of Belize. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

Invest 98L northwest of the Cape Verde Islands
A tropical wave few hundred miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Invest 98L, has become disorganized and lost most of its heavy thunderstorms. The disturbance is moving over colder waters and encountering drier air, and NHC is giving 98L only a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday. The latest set of model runs keep 98L well out to sea away from any land areas over the next five days.

Links
Long-range radar out of Puerto Rico

Jeff Masters

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4873. Relix
Well starting to get hit hard. May lose power soon. Boo!!!
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Quoting Grothar:
I know all eyes should be on Harvey and Irene, but this could be important next week.

Jose and Katia is asking for trouble...(why they only removed R & N from Katrina?)
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Quoting Relix:
Just sat with anemometer outside.... just chillaxed on the roof. Saw the amazing clouds moving around a circle. Some huge clouds. Noticed lightning inside them too and sustained winds of about 16MPH with a gust of 25MPH here in Levittown, Puerto Rico. Light rain or none at all.


its coming and come down before a gust knocks u over
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4870. mrjr101
Quoting stormpetrol:
PR is going get everything Irene's got, on the bad side of Irene, if she had pulled NW they wouldn't have been impacted as bad, hold on PR its going be a long night!!


Relax, it's just a TS.
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I spy an... eye?
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Timing will be everything with Irene. There is a very fine line between the GFDL (left outlier) and the HWRF (right oulier). Still alot of ifs with this storm. It go up the west coast of Florida or it could miss Florida all together and hit the Carolinas (most likely scenario right now).
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Good chance now that IRENE will MISS all major Land mass after Puerto Rico....She might not loose much strength and could be one horrible storm for the Bahamas first. Looking more like a Major Hurricane is becoming more possible.
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Quoting fsumet:
FWIW, I can't actually show it, but the official NHC track is actually really close to the FSU Super Ensemble.
''
Is the FSU public? I thought they took it off public domain a few years ago...or do you have connections?
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4865. P451
Quoting Grothar:
I know all eyes should be on Harvey and Irene, but this could be important next week.



Yup.....those look like they mean business.

Yet, look what became of 98L (and the short lived - never should have been declared 99L).

Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
Thoughts and prayers for Puerto Rico.

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4863. Dakster
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Well, my friends is responsing to my tweets... they are accusing me that it will be just another one of those that behaves like severe thunderstorm... wow -_-*


Hey, you get to watch Darwin at work...
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10567
Quoting shadoclown45:
night everyone! Hope irene dosn't pull a charley on us. See you guys tommorrow!!


hate to say this, but it's not entirely impossible!
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NC Caster here,
We're going to get a taste of this I'm sure. Not wishing for it but there are 2 fires going that this will be the only event that can douse them. One of 6000 acres in the Great Dismal Swamp on the Va/Nc border and the Pains Bay fire near Stumpy Point NC that has been smoldering since 5 May. That one burned 45000 acres. Both started by lightning. Looking forward to seeing them out.
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Quoting kmanislander:


That recent convective blow up might mean 992 mbs. Looks like a hurricane for PR tonight.


It does regardless of what's declared.
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Quoting HCW:




grazie!
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Quoting NCSCguy:
True... or you could drive all the way up to Summerville/Goose Creek and come back down 61(if its not flooded) or I26.


you'd have to do it before the winds start...but have even seen those viaducts close on down 61 before...took us 9.5 hours to get from West Ashley to Summerville going the back way during floyd
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4856. P451
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Last center fix and current center...



Evening.


Motoring WNW. Steady as she goes.

Core looking better and better....but I wonder if it has a chance to fill in the rest of the southern side before PR.

Amazing how it ditched that large broad feature and a small tight circulation center popped out of the SE corner of it for us to see.

Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
4855. Drakoen
Quoting fsumet:
FWIW, I can't actually show it, but the official NHC track is actually really close to the FSU Super Ensemble.


Do you get access from being a meteorology student at FSU?
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4854. mrjr101
This one is such a nightmare for U.S. forecasters, they could miss a 1000 mile CONUS landfall prediction. This northward turns before reaching florida are the most difficult to pinpoint. It all depends on timing. Anyone in the eastern seaboard should pay close attention.
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PR is going get everything Irene's got, on the bad side of Irene, if she had pulled NW they wouldn't have been impacted as bad, hold on PR its going be a long night!!
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Quoting Patrap:


TS IRENE has put some of that Forward Momentum inot a good burst of organazation the lst 6 hours,,and when they do that they Tighten up the core and slow down as well.

So a few degrees today and tonight in motion will have a impact on track downstream.


That's what I was thinking...thanks
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night everyone! Hope irene dosn't pull a charley on us. See you guys tommorrow!!
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Quoting Marziedotz:
i live in sacramento calif -i feel like we are out of woods am i right ???
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4849. Grothar
I know all eyes should be on Harvey and Irene, but this could be important next week.

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Quoting Dakster:
sure has the appearance of a cat1 hurricane on IR...

Just have to wait and see if the numbers and HH hunter obs. make it a Cat1.


Almost certainly not a hurricane yet, no surface or HH obs to support that. It's getting closer though, intensifying slowly but surely. Still has about 6 hours or so before landfall in PR so there's a good chance of her becoming a hurricane before she crosses the coast.
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Well, my friends is responsing to my tweets... they are accusing me that it will be just another one of those that behaves like severe thunderstorm... wow -_-*
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4845. HCW
Quoting justalurker:
PR radar link please? thank you

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IDK, but it seems like motion based on radar seems to be between 275-280 degrees, not so much 285. It will be interesting to see where the HH spot the CoC on this pass. Still thinking the long trek across PR (the length of the island). I mean, Irene wants to visit PR... who can blame her, I have heard it is beautiful there. Hope all that are there are "hunkered down".
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4843. P451
Quoting Tazmanian:
hi hop this storm stays S of .HAITI. or N of .HAITI. they really dont need this


Taz, on it's current course, the storm is going to be a decent distance north of Haiti when it gets that far west.

As it stands now the storm will exit PR on the northern coast and maybe not even touch the DR.

We have to see what happens when this landfalls in eastern PR.

Storms can be pulled more westerly due to land interaction and friction. It's something you won't know about until it happens.

If that did happen a trek across PR and then across the DR into northern Haiti would still be possible.

If she just crosses PR on this WNW course then... it would exit the waters north of western PR.


Just don't know this yet.
Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
If I were in the Bahamas right now, I'd be battening down the hatches. The Bahamas will be on the East side of circulation and should get the worst of the winds and storm surge.

If Irene goes just North of Hispaniola, the hurricane might become stronger than anticipated, meaning a more northerly track. That would be to the right side of guidance... or Bahama bound. Better safe than sorry.
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4841. fsumet
FWIW, I can't actually show it, but the official NHC track is actually really close to the FSU Super Ensemble.
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Quoting caneswatch:
Anti-cyclone over Irene, moving north of Hispaniola, heading into perfect territory. We'll be waking up to bad news tomorrow.


Canes..you think Hurricane Warnings for our part of the world within the next two days?
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I still think NE corner of PR .
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Up to now all we've got is a Plantain killer Storm...

In Ponce, they have no rain or wind
In Caguas and Metro area some wind/rain bands 40mph

Hasta el momento esto es una tormenta Platanera...

Espero Que siga asi....


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Quoting Patrap:


TS IRENE has put some of that Forward Momentum inot a good burst of organazation the lst 6 hours,,and when they do that they Tighten up the core and slow down as well.

So a few degrees today and tonight in motion will have a impact on track downstream.
She's winding up and slowing down...for a turn or a bit of a stall?
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4836. NCSCguy
Quoting tiggeriffic:


most parts of charleston sc are joined together by bridges...if we have sustained winds of 40mph or greater all bridges are closed down and we are at a stand still...no one execpt emerg personelle go to work
True... or you could drive all the way up to Summerville/Goose Creek and come back down 61(if its not flooded) or I26.
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4835. emcf30
Quoting Tazmanian:
hi hop this storm stays S of .HAITI. or N of .HAITI. they really dont need this


If we had to pick one for Haiti's sake, North of Haiti would be better. If it remained South they would get the bulk of the rain and wind.
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4834. Dakster
That is an interesting map chicklit... Although there is almost too much information on it.

It does show that there is a potential for RI IF Irene gets her act together.

Only positive thing is that she is so big that it takes time to wind up.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10567



LOOKS like a Hurricane very shortly!!!!
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That dip in the jet don't same too deep to me!
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4831. P451
Winds going up...




1008mb extrapolated in the latest barb there.
Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
San Juan Airport Conditions:

Mostly Cloudy and Breezy

81 °F
(27 °C)
Humidity: 79 %
Wind Speed: NE 23 G 36 MPH
Barometer: 29.81"
Dewpoint: 73 °F (23 °C)
Heat Index: 86 °F (30 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi
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Quoting 900MB:


Blowing up at the wrong time for PR. At least they are getting her early.
Yes, a minimal Cat 1, same happen with Jeanne in 2004...
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Quoting tarps3:
first time poster. What are the odds this becomes a major cane?


purty high imo

Quoting Lizpr:


Heya!! I moved to Southern Oregon a year ago so less active. Even though I'm so far away I get all nervous about this stuff.


its about time to ride it out
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Anti-cyclone over Irene, already a hurricane, moving north of Hispaniola, heading into perfect territory. We'll be waking up to bad news tomorrow.
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4826. msphar
Esperanza 14 Kts. E gusting to 23 Kts.
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4825. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Excellent post



Quoting emguy:
If the current trough does continue to pull out and does not errode the ridge as much...then the storm will reamin on a west north west track longer and the NW bend will be more subtle. Combined with that and the fact that the hurricane models have shown a poleward bias all season long...The NHC has a pretty good track. In fact, it may be a smidge too far to the east. Fact is, just because the storm reformed farther north and took the Carribean track out of the picture, it does not take the eastern gulf out of it. In fact, the storm could miss Hispanola and Cuba to the north and small changes could still place this storm in the extreme eastern gulf. Just note the orientation of the state and it's small width and one can see hour just 6 hours of additional WNW movement than currently forecast can do this. I do agree that folks on the west coast of Florida need to continue to monitor, although I do believe a spine of the state of East coast riding storm like David is more likely.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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